The influx of Japanese immigrants in South America in the 19th century improved an important facet of culture: dining. The fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines, termed “nikkei,” is a natural consequence of Peru’s sizable Japanese population, the second-largest in the continent, following Brazil.
Not for nothing does the term “fusion” fetch looks of uncertainty, as its numerous permutations in the dining scene haven’t always been successful. But Nikkei, a new restaurant in Legazpi Village, urges you to give it another shot. Tastefully decorated by Kristine Neri-Magturo of Urban Abode, the restaurant is a minimalist space that encourages intimate gatherings, and those dining solo won’t feel intimidated, thanks to the bar seating surrounding the open kitchen, helmed by Argentinian chef Christian Cejas.
But what Nikkei lacks in grandeur, it makes up for with a tapas-style menu that is inventive but simple, familiar but also different, all at once. Think of all your Japanese favorites—sashimi, sushi rolls and tempura—but with a twist. “The cuisine uses Japanese techniques with Peruvian flavor,” says Monica Violago, a co-owner at Nikkei. “It’s still your sushi and fresh seafood, but with spices and sauces.”
Between the selection of sashimi, maki and nigiri, it appears more Japanese than anything else, at least at first glance. While the touches of Peruvian cuisine seem few, they make a strong impact. The ceviches, or raw seafood marinated in leche de tigre, a staple on Peruvian menus, are worth a try, particularly the Green Ceviche (P375), a dish of white fish, octopus and prawns in wasabi cream, red onions and cilantro, with a neat sprinkling of sweet potato strings.
Nikkei’s emphasis on fresh seafood—their sashimi selection even features a “catch of the day” option—isn’t easily found in many other restaurants in the city. That it features prominently on most of their dishes is a pleasant and welcome surprise, especially on the Causa Appetizers (starts at P110), bites of soft mashed potato topped with fish, and on the Tiraditos (starts at P140), sashimi sliced Peruvian-style. We suggest accompanying the meal with a Spicy Sake Martini (P250) or a mocktail, such as the Nikkei Mojito (P165), and finishing it off with a scoop or three of Nikkei’s housemade ice cream, available in three distinct flavors: ginger (P98/scoop), sesame (P95/scoop) and wasabi (P95/scoop). NIKKEI, G/F Frabelle Bldg., Rada St., Legazpi Village, Makati. Tel. no. 880 0231 Clockwise from top: a cross-cultural feast made up of a Norito
cocktail (P220); Chalaquitas
Belly truffled tempura with ponzu sauce (P395); Green Ceviche (P375),
assorted Causa Appetizers (starts
at P110); Salmon
Ginger (P160) and Coco (P140) Tiraditos; Parmesan Scallops (P220);
and Grilled EbiSushiRolls
Nikkei’s cuisine gives us something to love about fusion dining.